Lynn Sheene takes us to Paris
I first noticed Lynn Sheene's debut book, The Last Time I Saw Paris, when I saw the exquisite cover. (Just take a look. Isn't it gorgeous?) When I read it, I discovered a fabulous story that takes the reader right back into thrilling France during World War II. It's a wonderful story in a setting I'd love to see more of!
May 1940: Fleeing a glamorous Manhattan life built on lies, Claire Harris arrives in Paris with a romantic vision of starting anew. But Claire didn't anticipate the sight of Nazi soldiers marching under the Arc de Triomphe. Her plans smashed by the German occupation, the once privileged socialite's only option becomes a job in a flower shop under the tutelage of a sophisticated Parisian florist. In exchange for false identity papers, Claire agrees to aid the French Resistance.
Despite the ever-present danger, she comes to love the enduring beauty of the City of Light, exploring it in the company of Thomas Grey, a mysterious Englishman working with the Resistance. Bravery and intelligence make her a valuable operative, and slowly Claire's values shift as she witnesses the courageous spirit of the Parisians.
But deception and betrayal force her to flee once again—this time to fight for the man she loves and what she knows is right—praying she has the heart and determination to survive long enough to one day see Paris again...
Simone: You write in a World War II setting. What is it about this time period that draws you to write in it?
Lynn: I’ve always loved the 1930’s and 1940’s – the culture, the music, the clothes, the jewelry. I’ve also been a Francophile for a many years time. But it wasn’t until those two things came together and sparked that I found my writing era. To me, Paris is the most beautiful place in the world. But under the German Occupation, the city was dark, hungry, desperate, and oppressed. But also heroic.
Simone: Tell us some of the background of how you came to write The Last Time I Saw Paris.
Lynn: A few years ago, I found a French Art Deco Brooch in an online antique shop. Strong lines, glittering stones, the stamps to verify its French maker. I wondered about the jewel’s past and what was going on in Paris during that time. I started digging.
What I found captivated me. It was the City of Light with the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg, the Louvre, the Tuileries - but during the Occupation, life itself was a daily struggle. And yet, there were men and women, students and writers, businessmen and homemakers, people like us who risked their lives to resist, whether they slipped food to one lacking the right papers to get food, published a Resistance newspaper, or took up weapons. The time is referred to by the French as the Dark Years. No one who went through it and survived came out unchanged. For a novelist who loves suspense, drama, and the urbane sexiness of an old film noir movie, I had found my writing mother lode!
Simone: Did you take any research trips to Paris for the book? If so, what is your #1 tip for anyone traveling there?
Lynn: I’ve gone to Paris a number of times for research. (What a terrible job, right?) I recently spent a month there researching my second book. Paris is always magical but I love to walk where my characters walked, visit where my characters met, lived, ate, and even died. And of course, I spend hours in places like Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris studying archives, photos and maps. I love every second of it!
My #1 trip for anyone traveling to Paris is to remember to slow down and savor the quiet moments. There is so much to see and do, you can never experience it all. But I believe you can’t truly get a feeling for the city until you’ve spent an afternoon picnicking in a park like Jardin du Luxembourg, or an evening strolling by the shops in le Marais, or a long morning in a café watching people pass. Those are the moments when I feel like I’m really experiencing Paris and what I remember most when I’m gone.
Simone: Did you base your hero or heroine on anyone in real life?
Lynn: The heroine, Claire, was inspired by women I read about who had been born into poverty and married their way in the great wealth, amassing jewelry collections that rivaled the great houses of Europe. I wondered about those women – were they happy? Did they find that the riches fulfilled them or did they need something more?
Simone: What is the best book you've read recently?
Lynn: There have been so many great books out lately! And one of the perks of being a writer is getting to read books before they come out. But I am most excited about my critique partner, Rochelle Staab’s debut book “Who doo, voodoo?” coming out in November. A delicious romantic caper with a pragmatic female shrink and a handsome occult professor who team up to look for the murderer of a voodoo priestess in L.A. I read it early on and am looking forward to seeing it, and inhaling it again, in print.
Simone: Where is your favorite place to read?
Lynn: I read everywhere! In bed, on the couch, in cafés , on planes. Wherever I can hold a book or my ipad. My favorite place, though, is in my comfy French Deco chair next to the window overlooking the garden, snuggling with my dog Boris. That is one of my favorite places, period.
Simone: Tell us what's next for you?
Lynn: I am currently working on my next book set in the same “world” as THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS - German-Occupied France. A young ballerina goes undercover to spy for British intelligence as a cabaret dancer in Paris while searching for her missing brother. She is forced to partner with a mercenary French Count, risking her life, the lives of those she loves, as well as countless sailors, with a man she cannot afford to trust.
That sounds soooo good. Thanks for coming by, Lynn. Since this book's cover makes me think of classic films, I'll ask our readers: What is your favorite classic movie, from any era?